Best Friend! Get Lucky!
The scene is an elegant skyscraper at 1250 Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Its a few minutes past 8:00 pm, and a party is starting.
The hostess welcomes two guests who have arrived separately. She hasnt yet had the opportunity to greet them or to introduce them to each other. Oh, how do you do? she gushes. Im so glad you could come. Betty, this is Mr. Forbes. Miss Betty Rogers.
With no apparent enthusiasm, Miss Rogers and Mr. Forbes murmur How do you do?
The hostess assures the couple that theyll get along just fine. Now, I know youll have so much to talk about! Oh, theres Mrs. Fletcher! Oh, Mrs. Fletcher, so delighted you could come....
Mr. Forbes, an athletic young man, glances nervously at Betty and attempts to start a conversation. Uh, lovely weather were having. Yes, she responds gravely. Yes. Lovely weather. Theres an awkward silence.
Betty suggests another topic. Uh, I I suppose you play tennis? No, he answers. Oh, she responds.
More nervous silence. Hes a little desperate. Mind if I smoke? he asks, withdrawing a pack from his jacket pocket. Not at all, she answers automatically.
He offers her one of his cigarettes. Will you have one? She looks at the pack. When she notices his brand is Lucky Strike, her mood instantly changes.
Oh, good! she chirps. You smoke Luckies! Thanks, I will have one. He strikes a match for her. She takes a puff. She has lit up, literally and figuratively.
Yknow, he observes, youre different when you smile.
Am I? she laughs. Well, youre different when youre smoking.
Leaning closer, he confesses, Ive been wanting to talk to you ever since I came into this party.
And Ive wanted to talk to you, too, she responds. But when we were introduced, we said such silly things!
He agrees. Wasting moments on the weather! He inhales, exhales slowly, and chuckles. Funny how you can talk over a cigarette. You know what this one is saying to me now?
He gives voice to the smoldering stick. When strangers meet, I break the ice! Im your best friend! I am your Lucky Strike!
A voice-over announcer breaks in. Do you know what your Lucky Strike would say if it could talk?
And, the announcer explains, Ill tell you why your Lucky Strike is a better friend than others. It is made of center leaves only. No sharp, undeveloped top leaves and no grimy, over-developed bottom leaves are used in Luckies. Only the expensive center leaves fragrant, and rich in flavor. No finer tobaccos are grown than those used in Luckies.
Mr. Butts repeats, Im your best friend! I am your Lucky Strike. Try me. Ill never let you down.
Yes, folks, its Saturday night, April 20, 1935, and weve been listening to cigarette advertising. Commercials like this would be on the air for another 35 years. Then it became obvious that cigarettes were a health hazard, and the ads were banned by the federal government. The percentage of Americans who smoke gradually dropped. Its now down to 17.8%.
The program was The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, originating from the Rockefeller Center studios of WEAF radio, the flagship station of the National Broadcasting Companys Red Network. It was broadcast live from 8 to 9 pm Eastern time.
After the theme song, Happy Days Are Here Again, Lennie Haytons house band and vocalists performed the most popular songs of the week. We dont pick em, but we play em. From north, south, east and west, Lucky Strike takes your verdict of just which songs you like best. We check the songs you dance to; we check the sales of the records you buy, and the sheet music you play. We check the numbers of requests to have played at night clubs and hotels, and the tunes you hear over the air. And then, knowing your preferences, we bring you the 15 Hits of the Week in Lucky Strikes Hit Parade.
A website has archived NBCs 1935 radio continuity, or scripts, from which Ive lifted the above copy. Ive actually combined two commercials and inserted the character Mr. Butts from the comic strip Doonesbury.
Two decades later, my family watched Your Hit Parade on television. On TV, the show was only half an hour, and half as many songs were featured. However, each was dramatized with scenery and costumes. Here's a link.
I recall a couple of comments from my family during the show. When the song Tammy was covered, my uncle asked whether Debbie Reynolds had been the original artist. And when a dramatization required a singer to perform while lying flat on his back, my mother remarked on how difficult that would be.
Id forgotten that in those days a jukebox was called an automatic coin machine, but I do remember details like the harp arpeggio as each song was introduced. And I remember pretty Dorothy Collins, not to mention Snooky Lanson. Snooky!